Let me begin by resolving a threshold issue: nappyheadedness ain’t about how I wear my hair. I am a nappyheaded woman. It was not always so. Growing up in the household of two parents with an ethic of excellence, in the shadow of Prairie View A&M University, in a city that boasted a Black mayor and city government; in a neighborhood of educated professors and teachers, I became a nappyheaded child. As such, I was confident in my abilities, proud of my blackness, and sure of my intellect. Prairie View children were taught that we could excel in any venue, and we believed it.
My nappyheadedness evolved as I encountered educational structures at University of Houston and South Texas College of Law. These institutions embraced and nurtured me, even as I critiqued them on the basis of race. You could say I was half-nappy at that point. Although familiar with feminist thought, I had little understanding of or experience with gender discrimination.
The womanly part of my nappyheaded nature comes as the result of the love I have given and received. The mistakes, missed opportunities, and wrong turns define me just as surely as my successes. I have buried a husband, a father, a mother, and a sister. I have prosecuted, defended, advocated and mediated. In rural and urban courtrooms, the over-representation of minoritized men and women haunted me, and haunts me still. I have seen with microscopic detail the unjustness of the juvenile and criminal justice systems. I have grieved at the bedsides of people dying of AIDS. I have worked alongside and celebrated with people living with HIV and AIDS.
Nappyheadedness is not about how I wear my hair. It is about the lens through which I view a world where I am challenged by race, class, and gender. The intersectionality of my existence is a reality I acknowledge. My daily work is to resist the impulse to look away; to close my eyes; to deny what I see and experience. And to simultaneously resist losing my mind.